Concessions Announced Before Budget Vote

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Perikatan Nasional conceded to a demand to reduce the RM85.5 million allocated to its propaganda unit, minutes before Budget 2021 was put to the vote.

Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz announced that funding was reduced for the Special Affairs Department (Jasa), saying the amendment would be made at the committee stage of the supply bill.

“I will move a motion to cut Jasa’s allocation at the committee stage…we will make an announcement,” he said in his winding-up speech on Budget 2021 in the Dewan Rakyat today.

He did not specify the amount to be slashed.

The allocation for Jasa, which was abolished by the Pakatan Harapan government, was among the most controversial aspects of the budget tabled earlier this month.

Another concession was to open the EPF i-Sinar programme to more contributors and allow them to withdraw a lump sum of RM10,000 from Account 1 instead of in monthly instalments.

Tengku Zafrul said those who have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and have lost their income or are experiencing a reduction in revenue or business are now eligible to withdraw money from their Account 1 under the i-Sinar facility.

“After discussing with EPF management this morning, I would like to announce that the i-Sinar facility be now open to all members whose income have been affected due to the pandemic.

“It does not matter if the member is an active contributor or not, so long as they can show proof that they are affected by the pandemic, then they qualify to withdraw money from their Account 1,” said Zafrul, which was met by thumps on the table by MPs.

The government also acceded to the demand to extend the automatic moratorium on the repayment of bank loans for the B40 and M40 groups and small businesses.

The government also announced a one-off payment of RM300 to all frontliners, including members of the police, Immigration, Rela and those recognised under the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma).

When the budget was announced on Nov 6, Tengku Zafrul said that a special one-off payment of RM500 would be given to Health Ministry’s frontliners.

The one-off RM50 vouchers for e-wallets will be increased to RM100 and will benefit 1.1 million students in private and public higher learning institutions, including those aged 20 and above.